Posted by Zia Shah
Tampa, Florida (CNN) — Thousands in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama were being told early Monday to leave their Gulf Coast homes ahead of the arrival of Tropical Storm Isaac as forecasters warned it was gaining strength as it followed the same path Hurricane Katrina took seven years earlier.
The governors of the three states each declared a state of emergency, with Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley ordering mandatory evacuations to begin at 8 a.m. for residents who live along the coast and for those in some low-lying areas inland.
“I am urging everyone to take precautions now, monitor weather warnings, and be prepared for whatever Isaac may bring,” Bentley said in a statement released Sunday.
A hurricane warning was issued for the northern coast of the Gulf of Mexico, from Morgan City, Louisiana, east to Destin, Florida, the National Hurricane Center said.
The tropical storm was expected to make landfall late Tuesday or Wednesday — the anniversary of Katrina’s landfall — as a Category 1 hurricane, with winds of at least 74 mph.
Isaac’s strength was holding steady early Monday as it moved at 14 mph through the warm Gulf waters, about 180 miles southwest of Fort Myers, Florida, forecasters said. The storm was packing maximum sustained winds of 65 mph, according to a hurricane center advisory.
It appeared early Monday that the storm’s ferocity would mostly bypass Florida’s west coast and the Republican National Convention in Tampa, where the schedule was pushed back a day by organizers over concerns about the storm.
Isaac’s eye is forecast to pass well west of Tampa.
After slamming into Haiti, where at least six people died in storm-related incidents Saturday, Isaac lashed Cuba and the Florida Keys. Read more.